Kei nga Mema Paremata, e manaaki nei i tø tātau Paremata Taiohi, tēnā koutou. Taiohi mā, e hine mā, e tama mā, nøhou te aro māngai, mo Aotearoa. Inā te kī a Māhupuku, ka pū te rūhā, ka hao te rangatahi. Tena koutou katoa.
To the Members of Parliament who today embrace our Youth Parliament, I extend my greetings.
To the Youth Parliament, young women and young men, yours is the voice for youth in Aotearoa.
Let us be mindful of the words of Tamahau Mahupuku, who said, ‘the old net will be put aside, and in time, the new net will go fishing’. Greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge Rt Hon Trevor Mallard, Speaker of the House; Hon Peeni Henare, Minister for Youth; Hon Simon Bridges, Leader of the Opposition; members of the Youth Parliament 2019 Multi-Party Steering Committee and Members of Parliament – tena koutou katoa.
To our Youth MPs and Youth Press Gallery members – I congratulate you all on being selected as representatives for the 2019 Youth Parliament.
Over the next two days you will have a unique opportunity to learn about and experience our constitutional monarchy and the mechanics and rationale for our democratic system of Government.
The Governor General opens the new Parliament after each general election. The current Parliament, opened on 8 November 2017, is the 52nd Parliament of New Zealand.
On the day of the state opening, the Governor-General comes here, to the Legislative Council Chamber, to deliver the Speech from the Throne. Written by the new Government, the speech sets out its priorities and issues for the three-year term.
The opening takes place in this room because, as the representative of the Sovereign, the Governor General cannot go into the debating chamber of the House of Representatives. The reason for this is rooted in British history.
Over 300 years ago, King Charles I attempted to arrest some MPs in Britain’s House of Commons. This became the trigger for civil war, which ultimately led to the King’s execution. Ever since then, the Sovereign, or their representative, has been banned from the debating chamber to symbolise the independence of MPs.
If you look closely at the doors of the debating chamber, you will see some dents. These are made by the usher of the Black Rod, a representative of the Sovereign who summons the MPs to attend the Speech. As the Black Rod approaches the room, the doors are slammed shut, forcing them to knock hard on the door. That is another legacy of King Charles I’s ill-fated transgressions three centuries ago.
So, what is the modern day role of the Governor-General in New Zealand?
Simply put, the Governor General carries out all of the functions of the Queen, as our Head of State.
It is frequently said that the Queen reigns, while the government rules, or governs. And while the Sovereign does not govern, they or their representative, have a duty to ensure that those who do, do so properly. The Sovereign symbolises continuity – a security and unity that transcends politics.
While New Zealand is an independent nation, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is our Head of State. This connection dates from the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 by our first Governor, William Hobson, on behalf of Queen Victoria.
Today the Governor-General is appointed by the Queen as her representative in New Zealand for a five year term, on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The Governor General and the House of Representatives together make up our Parliament. The Governor-General signs all bills into law, dissolves Parliament, appoints the Prime Minister and Ministers of the Government after the political formation process, and summons Parliament to meet.
A key part of my job is to make sure that there is always a government in place with a democratic mandate to govern.
In the face of the divisions and disruptions that we see featuring in politics in many parts of the world, a stable relationship between Members of Parliament, the Government and the Governor-General is more crucial than ever. This will be a key learning for you over the next couple of days; that relationships lie at the heart of constitutional security and effectiveness.
As the rangatahi of Aotearoa New Zealand, you play a crucial role in these relationships. Whether that be through learning about our constitutional history including the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, or keeping watch for anyone who crosses the boundaries of our constitution – as King Charles did.
Absorb the environment around you. Ask questions and participate as fully as you can. On your return home, encourage others to engage and use their voices. Actively share your experiences and learnings with your family and friends.
Your active participation in our parliamentary process is essential to preserving a healthy democracy. I have no doubt that the relationships and understandings you will develop and take with you upon leaving here, will be invaluable.
On that note, I take great pleasure in declaring the Youth Parliament open for 2019.
No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.